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Julius A. Leetham, 1918 - 2008

L.A. County judge was a prominent Republican

August 24, 2008|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Julius A. "Jud" Leetham, a former Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who served as chairman of the county Republican Central Committee in the 1960s, has died. He was 90.

Leetham, a longtime resident of San Marino and Pasadena, died Aug. 16 at a Walnut Creek nursing facility from complications of a stroke he suffered about two months ago, said his son, William C. Leetham. Julius Leetham had moved to Walnut Creek, in the East Bay Area, several years ago.

Appointed to the Superior Court in 1969 by Gov. Ronald Reagan, Leetham served on the court for nearly 20 years, including two as the supervising judge of the criminal courts in Los Angeles County.

Leetham, a 1948 Harvard Law School graduate who began a private practice in 1950 in downtown Los Angeles, became active in the Republican Party in the '50s.

In 1961, he was elected chairman of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee.

As chairman, he gained national stature as a Republican leader. Leetham formed the local Republican Labor Advisory Committee, which was said to be the first of its kind in the nation. He also formed Citizens by Choice, an organization of newly naturalized Americans within the Republican Party.

In 1966, Leetham resigned his county GOP chairmanship and sought the Republican nomination for state attorney general but lost in the primary.

"I had risen to the point where I had to run for office," he told The Times in 1974. "Running was more important than winning. If I ran and lost, I knew I could turn around and say, 'OK, I gave it a shot. Now somebody else take over. We need new blood."

After Reagan was elected governor in 1966, he offered Leetham a state post. Leetham declined the offer but asked to be kept in mind for a Superior Court appointment, which came three years later.

Leetham retired from the Superior Court in 1988 but remained active in arbitration and private judicial work.

He was born in Salt Lake City on April 26, 1918, and grew up in Phoenix. A 1940 graduate of Stanford University, he served four years as an Army officer in the Pacific during World War II, in which he was aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Rapp Brush, commander of the 40th Infantry Division.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, he moved to Southern California and was a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Paul J. McCormick in Los Angeles for two years before going into private practice.

In addition to his son William, he is survived by his wife, Marian; his son James; his daughter, Jean Karneus; and six grandchildren.

No services are planned.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Boy Scouts of America, San Gabriel Valley Council, 3450 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107, or to a charity of your choice.

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dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

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